Culture of Kazakhstan Kazakh culture and national traditions
The Kazakh people are rich in traditions. From birth through old age and death, every step of their lives has historically been marked with celebration. Even their funeral ceremonies have their own special symbolism.
Unfortunately, many rich and interesting traditions and customs of the Kazakh people have been forgotten throughout the past century. Real sovereignty is just now being reestablished in Kazakhstan due to the process of democratization. These abandoned traditions are just now being rediscovered by the Kazakh people. These traditions include being respectful to old people; being patriotic to the motherland; being honest; and learning to love mankind.
Traditionally every guest is offered Kazakh cuisine at the dastarkhan (the low table) in a yurt.
The yurt is one of the most sensible types of movable house. It is a comfortable and practical home, ideally suited to local conditions and ways of life - one of the greatest inventions of the Eurasian nomads.
It is easily taken apart (it is said that a Kazakh woman can do it in half an hour) and carried by horses and camels. The yurt consists of three main elements: an extensible trellis base (the kerege), a dome made of poles (the uyk) and a round top (the shanyrak).
In ancient times Turks were reputed as the most skillful felt-makers. These days the Kazakhs use felt to cover the yurt and for its internal decoration, as well as to make carpets, dresses and shoes. The Kazakhs live surrounded by ornaments. They richly decorate their yurts with wall carpets and multi-colored embroideries.
Handicrafts - harnesses, felt mats (tekemets), and articles made of wood, bone and metal - are lavishly decorated. Headdresses, dresses, bags and saddle-cloths are beautifully embroidered. They use traditional designs and carvings to make and decorate the wooden cups, large bowls and ladles used to serve kumis (fermented mare's milk).
The horns of mountain rams and goats are used to decorate beds and caskets. Leather is used to make quivers, belts, harnesses and flasks (torsyks) for water and kumis. Kazakh artisans are also very skillful jewelers.
Steppe zergers(jewelers) favor white silver. Traditional Kazakh bell-shaped earrings, original bracelets (blezics), or the traditional bracelet linked to three rings with fine chains will certainly impress you.
Kazakh national dress varies by regions. Men wear chapans, a kind of dressing gown with a belt, made of velvet and richly embroidered. They cover their heads with a soft skullcap (tobetai), a tall felt cap (kalpak) or a fox-fur hat with earflaps (malakai).
The women's national costume consists of a white cotton or colored silk dress, a velvet waistcoat with embroidery and a cap or a silk scarf. Elderly women wear a hood made of white cloth with a hole for the face (the kimeshek). Brides wear a tall pointed, richly decorated hat, topped with feathers (saukele).
Kazakh music and musical instruments: The Kazakhs love the art of wordplay and their akyns (poets), who improvise at public competitions (aitys) accompanied by Kazakh stringed musical instruments: the dombra or the kobyz.
Nauryz (Islamic New Year) is one of the biggest holidays in Central Asia. In Kazakhstan it is celebrated on the day of the spring equinox, March 22. On that day, the streets of villages and towns are transformed. Guests are hosted in beautiful yurts with the traditional Nauryz kozhe dish made of seven traditional ingredients. People respecting this nearly month-long holiday forgive each others' debts and offences.
National games: these are usually performed on horseback and are an opportunity to witness the Kazakhs' outstanding riding skills. Kazaksha kures(Kazakh wrestling), baiga (horse racing over 25, 50 or 100 km), kokpar (a sort of polo game played with a dead goat), kyz-kuu (catch the girl) and alty bakan (six-pole swing).
TheKazakh culture is very rich and diverse. During the formation of the Kazakh nation specific musical traditions appeared. As a result the rich musical culture was determined. The rituals connected to the child’s birth, weddings, funeral repast, usually were accompanied by singing. The favourite performance of the people became aytys of akyns. Folk music was based mostly on diatonic major and minor rhythms of seven tones. Dance culture of the Kazakh people has been known since ancient times. The dances comprehensively reveal the life of the Kazakh people, his love for art. In the musical folklore the performance of songs, dances, songs accompanied by dances on the stage preserved. The holidays on the occasion of the end of labor year, and it starts are widely spread. On festivals, weddings the performers took part in the competitions and demonstrated to the audience their dancing skills. Pair dances of girls and men (Koyan-Burkit) are popular among the Kazakhs. Such dances are rarely found in other eastern nations. From ancient times the Kazakhs lived in the yurts.Yurta is adaptated to the nomadic life, it is very useful dwelling while moving and it satisfies the requirements of the nomadic way of life: it is mobile, easy pulled down and fast set on a new place. It can be regarded to the large achievement of the material culture of the Kazakh people. Today yurts are set on summer pastures, and during the festivals in the cities. Yurta is the connection between past and present. The national outerwear of the Kazakhs is different depending on the region. Men wear chapans (it is men’s clothes resembling the robe with a belt, made from velvet and decorated with the embroidery), and also soft tyubeteikas, high felt caps or hunting earflapped hats of the fox fur (malakai). Women’s national suit consists of white cotton or colour silk dress and the embroidered velvet waistcoat, hat or silk headscarf. Old married women cover their heads with kimeshek (white cloak) and leave the face open. Brides put on high, pointed, richly decorated hat – saukele, with the bunch of feathers on the crown. Nauryz (New Year) is the most important holiday among the Kazakh festivals. It is celebrated on 22 of March - day of vernal equinox. On this day, the streets of cities and villages look different. The guests are met in the holiday yurts and treated with the ritual dish "Nauryz koje" cooked from seven traditional ingredients. Games and festivals always had a great public importance. Their appearance belongs to ancient times. In their development they passed a number of the successive forms, aligned with the public relations and business activities of the people. Games and entertainment always performed the social functions, such as educational, military and sport, ritual, spectacular and aesthetic, communicative and others. Military and sport games performed the wide and universal function. The games were connected to military way of life (wars, invasions, armed conflicts) and business activities of the people. The games were saiys, audyryspak, jamby atu, altyn kabak, horse races, kures and others. The part of the games and entertainment carried the ritual and ceremonial functions, included to the system of funeral and sepulchral rites, as well as marriage. Many of them lost their first essence, they developed and degenerated. The examples are alaman bayga and kokpar.
Before the 19th century, Kazakhstan had no written language of its own. Literature took the form of long oral poems, recited by bards (aquins) in a song-like chant and accompanied by traditional instruments like drums and a dombra , a mandolin-like string instrument. Recitals and poetry contests (aitys) are still very popular. The founder of modern Kazakh literature is said to be Abay Kunanbaev (1845-1904 - see illustration left), a 19th century poet and writer who translated Russian works into the Kazakh language. His main contribution to Kazakh culture and folklore is his poetry, which expresses strong nationalism and grew out of Kazakh folk culture. His most famous philosophic work, "Words of edification", is said to be a spiritual commandment to the Kazakh nation. Other writers and poets include Akhmet Baitursynov, Bakhytzhan Kanapyanov, Nirjaqip Dulatuli, Bukhar-zhirau Kalmakanov, Makhambet Utemisov and many others.
Chokan Valikhanov (1835-1865see illustration left), from which Kazakhstan’s Academy of Sciences takes its name, was the first Kazakh scholar, ethnographer and historian. A descendant of Ghenghis Khan, Valikhanov was one of the first Kazakhs to be educated in Russian and published books and articles devoted to the history and culture of Central Asia. Notable works include "Kirghiz (Kazakhs)," "Traces of shamanism in Kirghiz", "About Kirghiz nomads' camp" and others containing ethnographic data that have been used to date. He also wrote the Kazakh epic poems "Kozy-Korpesh and "Bayan-Sulu" and the Kyrgyz epic "Manas.”
Astana, the Kazakh capital, and Almaty the former capital, are modern cosmopolitan cities in which the population live identical lives to those of other major Western capitals. Most Kazakhs live in urban apartment blocks, houses finished to international standards. The wealthy denizens of Astana have the option of occupying penthouse flats overlooking the city and the ever-receeding steppes.